Owner John Bagley looks around one of the units
he is ready to lease at his industrial park on Wednesday
morning in West Bend. Bagley has five units ready to lease
but can not due to restrictions from the city of West Bend.
The city is trying to get a raze order on the building.
John Ehlke/Daily News
WEST BEND - There’s a cold-shoulder war over the north side
industrial site at
2100 Northwestern Ave. between the city of West Bend and
property owner John Bagley.
City officials want to shut down the former 97,665-square-foot
factory, known as the Bermico building, claiming it’s
dilapidated condition is a public safety hazard. The oldest part
of the factory was built in 1927.
Bagley said the city continues to cite outdated information,
exaggerate the seriousness of problems and ignores the $100,000
in improvements he’s put into the structure since he bought it
in February 2013 for $150,000.
Bagley has one tenant and five units ready to
rent. “I’ve been ready for lease for eight
months now. The city won’t allow it. They’re
killing my revenue,” he said.
The property is
between the Milwaukee River and the Eisenbahn State
Trail, a block west of Barton Park.
“No city official has talked to me in six months,”
Each blames the other for being uncooperative and now
they’re preparing to take their complaints to court.
“We’re trying to do the responsible thing here,” City
Administrator T.J. Justice said.
New lights were added to the building.
John Ehlke/Daily News
On Friday, the
city announced it was going to court to block access to
the 5.29-acre site until it can obtain a raze order. If
a judge sides with the city, Bagley will have to pay for
the building’s removal, according to state statute.
“We’re concerned about safety. That’s what it boils down
to,” Justice said.
The purchase was through Bagley’s JHB Investments.
“I purchased the building nearly two years ago and it
was in shambles. Everyone knows that,” Bagley said
He ran through the check list of improvements he and his
company, JHB Design & Construct, West Bend, and
subcontractors have made: New or repaired roofing,
security lights installed, doors rekeyed with a master
key to rule them all, tuck pointing masonry, facade
improvements, new windows, heating system and sprinkler
system for half of the building. He also took out the
old electrical, he said.
The building is divided into 12 units Bagley plans to
lease for warehousing or light-industrial use. In
October, 40,000-square-feet of the building, deemed
unusable, will be demolished, Bagley said.
Bagley has one tenant and five units ready to rent.
“I’ve been ready for lease for eight months now. The
city won’t allow it. They’re killing my revenue,” he
said. “If I had the permit to occupy I could start
leasing next month.”
This is not the first time the city has tried to raze
the building. It happened in 2000 and again in 2013,
each time the city taken to court and convinced to back
Michael Miller, now a county supervisor from West Bend,
was the city’s mayor from 1987-2005.
“We were talked into not taking it any further,” Miller
said of the 2000 attempt. “We were convinced it would be
renovated. That’s what we were told. But that’s been a
The property had problems his entire tenure, Miller
said. One problem was with plastics firms that stored
materials outside the building.
“There was seeping into the river,” he said. “It seems
like the property was never maintained. It had a lot of
potential and it’s always been an eyesore for the
Bagley denies his building is unsafe or has any more
problem with trespassers than any other property.
“I own 7 acres on the river and I have woods over
there,” Badley said. “Of course, kids are going to play
down here.” But, he added, there has been no trespassing
in the building.
Bagley said the state’s Department of Natural Resources
no longer has a problem with his property and where the
building is located in not in the river’s floodplain.
He also showed the permits and approvals he’s received
from the state for his development plan, which he has
until August of 2015 to complete.
Bagley said he had to go to the state for approvals
because he could not get them from City Hall. “It cost
me 10 times the amount. I’m fully approved by the state.
How is the city of West Bend overriding the state of
Justice said there was not much he could say about the
city’s concerns with Bagley’s property because it is
heading into litigation.
He acknowledge the state has issued approvals for
Bagley’s development, but “there are additional steps
that need to be taken. There’s just unfinished business.
We’ve got a number of people up here concerned about
The disagreement between Bagley and the city will be
worked out in court, Justice said. “It’s much better
played out in a court of law where it belongs.”
The early history
In 1927, businessmen in the then-village of Barton
constructed a small building at 2100 Northwestern Ave.
to entice the Line Material Co. of Milwaukee to open its
manufacturing plant there and produce Coal Tar
Impregnated Wood Fibre pipe, an alternative to iron
That company in 1956 was bought by McGraw-Edison. It
became Bermico in 1969, remained in business until the
Fibre pipe was made of ground cellulose fibres bound
together with a water resistant adhesive, which was
dried and soaked in liquefied coal tar pitch. Line
Material used old newspapers, which is made of wood
pulp, to make its pipes.
Fibre pipe production goes back more than 120 years. In
1893, the Union Electric Co. and Nyack Electric Light
and Power Co. founded the Fibre Conduit Co. in
Orangeburg, N.Y., the first and biggest to mass produce
the fibre conduit. The product soon picked up the common
name Orangeburg and later Bermico pipe.
Sources: Barton Historical Society and Washington County
Register of Deeds .